With 3:55 remaining in Tuesday’s senior day contest for No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball, Sara Vujacic accepted a pass across the face of the basket from Ashley Owusu and scored her ninth and 10th points with a layup.
Under a minute later, all four Terp seniors were substituted out of the game to a rousing ovation from the Xfinity Center crowd, having combined for 48 points in the Terps’ 88-45 win over the Purdue Boilermakers.
“Senior night is always really special to me and our program,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I appreciate everything about this class. They really worked hard since day one. Through injuries, adversity — have always stepped up to accept responsibility and you see their leadership every single day for this team in this program.”
Sophomore Taylor Mikesell was the only non-senior joining the quad of Vujacic, Stephanie Jones, Blair Watson and Kaila Charles on the floor at the opening tip, which left the Terps vulnerable inside the paint.
Purdue started off scrapping — holding an advantage for the first 6:11 — and did so with its post play while having a height advantage.
Jones became the first senior to respond to the Boilermakers, scoring six points on perfect shooting and pulling in two boards to help the Terps climb to a seven-point lead through 10 minutes of play.
“Steph set the tone for us,” Frese said. “We always called it ‘Mean Steph.’ She’s so mild-mannered and happy and positive. But when you get that aggression from her, the physicality, and she’s playing with with a strong purpose and she wants to take this thing as far as she can, so makes us a better team.”
Early in the second quarter, Jones was able to corral an offensive rebound from a Charles miss and lay it back up and in for two points, extending the Maryland lead to seven.
Less than a minute later, Charles reversed the tandem by pulling in an offensive rebound from a blocked shot that Jones took and was able to assist her in putting the ball back up and in.
Jones finished the evening by leading all scorers with 18 points and added nine rebounds through 27 minutes of play.
Charles was able to notch a double-double on her senior night — with 14 points and 11 rebounds — and was a dominant without necessarily being the main force on the floor.
With the clock winding down in the third quarter, Vujacic stood on the wing, waiting for an opening, as Charles tipped an offensive rebound out to Mikesell who hit the senior with a pass that led to a huge three-point make.
In her first-career start, Vujacic finished with 10 points in 11 minutes of play on 4-of-5 shooting — bringing the Xfinity Center crowd to its feet with two big three-point makes.
“My parents visited the USA for the first time,” Vujacic said. “So it was really special for me to just have them by my side.”
One senior that didn’t get much shine was Watson, who finished with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting, but she added five assists and two steals despite her shot not falling and was a consistent threat on defense.
“We have a lot of teams that we’re going to face that are a lot of bigger, badder and more of our competition,” Watson said.
With its final regular-season home game in the book, the Maryland senior class will turn its attention to Minnesota on Sunday and the first postseason test — The Big Ten Tournament March 4-8 — as it looks to leave a legacy.
“I think that over the course of four years, with these seniors here, that we definitely left our mark here,” Jones said.